Keep Your Laying Hens Happy this Winter

Unless you’re an old pro, thinking about getting your girls through the cold winter can be stressful.  Are they warm enough, is their water going to freeze overnight, are they going to lay eggs? It may seem like a big ordeal, but paying attention to a few details can really help your success in keeping your laying hens happy all winter long.

 1. Roosts

Hens like to roost while they sleep – huddling next to each other helps share body heat and keep them toasty warm. Just make sure they have enough room to fluff out their feathers, about 6-8″. And if you’d like to add a little extra something for those especially cold winter nights, we have adjustable heated roosts to help you out.

2. Heated Water

This is so important. Their water doesn’t have to be hot, but warm enough to beat out the frost. We sell submergiable water heaters and heater bases that sit under galvanized chicken waterers.

3. Light

A hen’s laying is influenced by her pineal gland, which is regulated by sunlight. If you’d like your girls to lay throughout the winter, the most important thing you can do is supplement light. Place 1 or 2 60-watt incandescent light bulbs on a timer in their coops to give them 16 hours of daylight each day.

If you don’t need the eggs, don’t add light. Hens naturally take the winter off from laying to divert energy into maintaining body heat, molting and growing new feathers, and resting from a season of hard work. Let their bodies adjust to natural daylight hours they’ll be happy as can be.

 4. Deep Litter

This method is low-maintenance and actively warms your hens as the litter slowly composts and releases heat into the winter coop. Start with a clean coop, and add 4″ of litter (you can choose from straw, hay, shavings, or whatever you typically use). Add more as needed to keep the coop clean and dry. By mid-winter your litter should be 8-10″ deep and toasty warm. Tossing a handful of corn in will encourage your hens to scratch and peck, which will help turn and aerate the litter. You can always give a hand every once in a while and give it a turn with a pitchfork as well.

5. Warming Treats

What you feed your girls makes a big difference. Some foods add a nice heat to their bodies while they sleep, while others don’t. For a good warm boost, give them some cracked corn as an evening snack – it keeps their digestive tracts active throughout the night. Warm oatmeal is also a great addition, or try adding some hot water to their regular feed for a nice warm treat before bed.

It may seem like work at first, but keeping your girls happy through winter is fairly simple. Keep them warm, clean and dry. Give them some treats to peck at and they’ll be just fine. Whether you want to keep them laying or give them the winter to recoup, this winter checklist will let you rest assured your girls are well taken care of.

 

 

 

Winter Bird Feeding

I want to start feeding birds in my backyard this winter. What seed should I put out to get the most birds I can?

Jerrika, Sahali

Insects are hard to find in winter, so birds that stay in colder regions through the winter rely largely on seed. the best thing you can do to bring a greater variety of birds into your yard is to offer a large variety of seed.

Offer different types, in different feeders, at different heights above the ground.

Here’s our best selection of seeds that attract wild birds throughout the winter.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are a favorite. They attract woodpeckers, blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches, finches and titmice. Make sure to keep these feeders away from trees and posts that squirrels and rats can climb.

Be sure to use the black sunflower seeds – no the grey and white striped seeds that you might eat at a baseball game. The black ones are higher in oil, have softer shells, and are much, much cheaper!

Nyjer

This little seed is wonderful for attracting goldfinches. It’s a tiny black seed that can easily blow away in the wind – so be sure to use the right feeder for this one. Some feeders are designed specifically for Nyjer seed – they have tiny holes, and posts or spirals going all the way up the feeder for multiple birds to eat at once.

One of the joys of goldfinches is they don’t mind people. Once they know there’s consistent food, they won’t be bothered by you watching them through a winder a couple feet away.

Songbird Buffet

Economical yet effective. This mix will attract cardinals, sparrows, doves, chickadees, goldfinches, jays, nuthatches, siskins and more. it contains 855% oil seeds that your wild birds will love. And what’s more perfect than songbirds on a clear winter day?

Also, the bags are recyclable.

Suet

Birds love suet. It’s perfct for replenishing depleted energy and nutrients that are sometimes hard to find in the winter. The added fats and oils help them sustain a higher winter metabolism. Try it in seed, berry, or insect varieties. This is a great option if you want woodpeckers!

Water

Don’t forget about the important of staying hydrated in the winter! Bird baths are a wonderful way to keep the brids you’re attracting healthy and strong through the winter. If you bird bath keeps freezing, consider purchasing a submersible water heater.

If you’re just starting to bring winter birds to your yard, be patient. It may take a week or two for the birds to find the feeders. But once they do, they’ll come back every day looking for more – bringing their chirps and songs, and giving you a great show during your morning coffee.

Good Luck and Happy Bird Watching!

Keep Your Water from Freezing (with Ritchie)

Because do you really want to wrestle with frozen hoses?

I’m willing to bet that if you’ve raised livestock for any length of time, you’re all too familiar with winter watering woes – breaking ice, thawing hoses, lugging buckets to fields and stalls only to have your gloves soaked and chilled by the time you’re done. I’m also willing to bet that if that’s the case – you’ll be interested in learning more about automatic waterers.

While they’re not ideal for all situations, automatic waterers are an excellent reprieve from tired chores and give an added sense of security, knowing your animals always have cool, fresh, clean water available.

If you’re considering investing in automatic waterers, here’s what you can look forward to:

– Your water will stay clean
– No more breaking ice
– No filling and lugging buckets
– You’ll save time
– Regulated water temperature in all conditions

While this may sound like a welcome change, once installed, automatic waterers are not out-of-sight-out-of-mind. We want you to have realistic expectations – before you buy, here are a few things you should know:

– Waterers are long-term investments and often permanent fixtures. Make sure you check for a good warranty before you buy. Our Ritchie waterers carry a 10-year 100% warranty against manufacturing defect or corrosion.

-Automatic waterers require daily attention. Valves can jam, floats can stick, water lines can freeze (sure, the waterer itself might be heated, but what about the pipes feeding it?). But rest assured, Ritchie keeps its current and upgraded parts interchangeable with older units to ensure you’ll always be able to get the right parts to fix your unit – even after 30 years.

-Setup is work. It requires digging a trench, running and hooking up power and water lines below the frost line, installing pipes, gravel and concrete pads. That said – it only has to be done once.

If you understand the challenges and still think it’s worth it for you to install automatic waterers, Ritchie Waterers has some awesome options available!

OmniFount Family –Traditional stainless steel blended with their newest poly units. Heat elements attached to the underside for frost free service.

CattleMasters – Heavily insulated for energy efficiency and UV inhibitors for extended life. Fully adjustable thermostats plus cable heaters for valve and supply line protection.

EcoFount – Features fully insulated casings and discs that float on top of the water, preventing sunlight from hitting the water – keeping it cleaner and cooler. Heated options available to keep you right through winter.

And more…

Purity carries a wide range of Ritchie Automatic Waterers in-store, and some require special ordering. Call our store for more information on product availability.

Some final thoughts:

There are automatic waterers designed for all types of livestock, not just horses. And a single unit goes a long way. Even a small, single trough waterer can feed up to 20 head of cattle. And when you’re sitting in your warm house on a cold mid-January evening, this investment will be well worth it knowing your horses have fresh, warm water available and you don’t have to venture back out into the cold.